Photo: Actor Lily Gladstone at the Golden Globes, where she won Best Performance by a Female Actor for "Killers of the Flower Moon."
Lily Gladstone made history at the 81st Golden Globe Awards Sunday evening when she became the first indigenous person to win the award for the best performance by a female actor in a dramatic motion picture. It was an historic moment.
In the film, “Killers of the Flower Moon”, she plays Mollie Burkhart, wife of Ernest Burkhart, played by Leonardo DeCaprio. As many know, the film depicts the gruesome murders of the Osage for their oil rights and their land. Many refer to this time as “the Reign of Terror.”
The best-selling book, written by David Grann, was published in 2017. It tells the horrific story of members of the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma, who enjoyed their newfound wealth after oil was discovered beneath their land. Their success was short-lived however, as tribal members mysteriously were killed off. Mollie Burkhart’s family became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot, while another was poisoned. More and more Osage died under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were also murdered.
The newly created FBI took up the case, and Director J. Edgar Hoover turned to former Texas Ranger Tom White to try to solve the mystery. White put together an undercover team and, together with the Osage, they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” was made with extensive collaboration from tribal members and director Scorsese held routine meetings with the Osage people, some descendants of the tragedy. Accurate depictions were reproduced including period wardrobe, blankets, and settings. After a screening in Oklahoma, the film was released and has been in theaters and on streaming platforms.
Gladstone was nominated for the award, and there was much discussion that she is a contender, not only for the Golden Globe, but also a possible Oscar. All eyes were on Lily Sunday night, as she ascended the stage and began her speech with a few sentences in Siksiká, the language of the Blackfeet Nation.
“I just spoke a bit of Blackfeet language, the beautiful community nation that raised me, that encouraged me to keep going, keep doing this,” she said. “I’m here with my mom, who, even though she’s not Blackfeet, worked tirelessly to get our language into our classroom, so I had a Blackfeet language teacher growing up.”
Gladstone continued, “This is a historic win — it doesn’t belong to just me. I’m holding it right now — holding it with all my beautiful sisters in the film at this table over here, and my mother, Tantoo Cardinal-standing on all of your shoulders,” she said. (Cardinal played Lizzie, her mother, in the film.)
Gladstone went on to thank the film’s director, Martin Scorsese, and her co-stars Leonardo Di Caprio and Robert DeNiro, along with Chief Standing Bear. Thank you, Marty. Thank you, Leo. You are all changing things and thank you for being allies.
“Thank you to all of you, and this is for every little res kid, every little urban kid, every little Native kid out there who has a dream, who is seeing themselves represented and our stories told by ourselves in our own words, with tremendous allies and tremendous trust with and from each other,” she said from the stage.
Gladstone, 37, grew up on the Blackfeet reservation until she was eleven years old. She attended high school outside of Seattle, where some of her classmates voted her Most Likely to Win an Oscar. The school sent formal congratulatory letters to Gladstone after her win.
Gladstone attended the University of Montana, earning a BFA in Acting and Directing. She also minored in Native American Studies. Gladstone’s credits go as far back as 2013 and her breakout role was in 2016 in “Certain Women.” Audiences have seen her recently in “Billions,” “First Cow” and “Reservation Dogs,” where she played Daniel’s mother and Willie Jack’s aunt, who was imprisoned. Upcoming projects will include “Under the Bridge” and “Mildred Bailey,” a biopic of the Coeur d’Alene jazz legend similar to Billie Holiday.
With the historic win and speech, Lily Gladstone will be the one to watch. Her grace under pressure, her experience and her choices will build upon what she has learned and continues to learn. Her talent, her projects, and her support of indigenous actors will likely be groundbreaking.
Gladstone wore beaded earrings created by Lenise Omeasoo(Ermine Cree and Blackfeet) that featured a black and white mirrored Blackfeet design framed by pink and gold glass beads. They complemented Gladstone’s Bulgari diamond necklace and a white Valentino gown.